West in Tachikawa, the children run and play in the extensive parks and rolling grass meadows in Showa Kokuritsu Kinen Koen.

From the spontaneous ball games in progress all along the length and breadth of Everybody's Field, to the boating on the rivers and lakes that dot the park's 120 hectares, you can hear the shouts and screams of delight of children enjoying all too infrequent time in (relatively) wide-open spaces.


Meanwhile, underneath you runs the serpentine cycling course boasting beginners and professionals wearing their much-admired cycling helmets. You can bring your own bike or rent one here. Kids were happily paddling in the shallow waters of the 700m Mountain Stream, shirts tucked into underwear. The Boy Scouts came equipped with towels and shorts, of course. From the summer onwards, the water-lovers transfer to the huge water slides and water games near the entrance to the park at Nishi Tachikawa Station -- some parents said that a few children never make it further into the park in the hot months.

For once in Japan, this is a park with extensive and well-labeled rubbish removal points and excellent toilet facilities, including 14 restrooms for people in wheelchairs. The park keeps 36 wheelchairs available for free use by visitors, but you might book chairs if people in your party depend on them for their mobility.

A particularly enjoyable feature as you head up the western side of the park towards the children's Woodland play area is the Dragon Mountain area, paved with broken ceramics and featuring a sea monster and little "monsters" in ceramics. This is a good place to climb up the stupa-like hill covered with forsythia for a good view of the surrounding territory and the adjacent, bamboo-surrounded sunken theater space and a maze for an intricate game of pirates. The Hobby House is a wonderful place on a rainy day, but this month the weather should be good enough to keep the small ones swinging in the nets and climbing the trees. If you'd like to join or organize a craft class, check with reception or any of the attendants in charge. Other free classes which are a regular event on the weekends include woodland and nature, bird watching, reed pipe, and sports.

The Japanese Garden at the top of Everybody's Field is perhaps more of an attraction for the adult visitors than the children, who have to be torn away from the tunnels and obstacles of Foggy Woods for a more sedate turn around the lake. Even though this somehow feels artificially planted, in this land of just-constructed thousand-year-old temples a little incongruity is always acceptable, despite the extra admission charges. You can hold your own tea ceremonies and haiku parties at the Kanfu-tei Clubhouse. If you'd prefer something more informal, the park has large barbecue and picnic grounds with a full supply of equipment and washing-up facilities. Just don't try this in August at the height of the fireworks (o-hanabi) season, when the park sky is flooded with fireworks and its grounds with people admiring them. For the many sports available, ask at reception about how to rent out the equipment to play croquet, minigolf, "frisbee golf" and lots more ball and bat games -- and enjoy this great park.



How to get there: The closest point of access is from Nishi Tachikawa Sta. (JR Ome Line), one stop from Tachikawa Sta. (JR Chuo Line).
Open: 9:30am-5pm.
Admission: Adults, 400 yen; children aged 6-15, 80 yen; younger children free. Discounts are available for groups.
Parking: 820 yen for most vehicles at Tachikawa and South gates. Strollers: 150 yen per rental. Coin lockers: 100 yen. For reservations: Contact Parks & Recreation Foundation, 3173 Midoricho, Tachikawa-shi, Tokyo 190-0014.
Tel: (042) 528-1751.


| Kokuei Showa Kinen Koen Park | For Kappa Water Sprites |
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